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‘Who dey?’ $4 Super Bowl ticket, anyone?

Lessons from Everyday Life By Theodore Lewis

Watching this year's exciting Super Bowl with the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams reminded me of my attendance at Super Bowl XVI on Jan. 24, 1982 at the Pontiac Silverdome. It was legendary and recounted in my earlier column titled “The Superbowl of All Superbowls.”

The passion within me to attend the game had involved countless efforts in obtaining a ticket to the game within my budget of $100 (the face value of tickets was $40).

I learned everything there was to know about the market for tickets that year.

The NFL controlled all ticket distributions. Each of the two participating teams would receive 20 percent for each of the tickets available. With a seating capacity of 80,000 at the Silverdome, that meant the Bengals would receive 16,000 and the 49ers would receive 16,000. The host stadium team (Detroit) would receive 10 percent of the tickets (8,000). The rest of the tickets would be distributed to other teams and advertisers.

The Detroit Lions had conducted a lottery among their season ticket holders (I was one of them), that would allow winners to be able to purchase two tickets at face value ($40) but with my luck, of course, I didn’t win.

In Dayton, just north of Cincinnati, everyone around me was caught up in Bengal fever. The sounds of "Who dey, Who dey, Who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals!” reverberated on every radio station in the area and would be sung at the start of many of my meetings at Kettering Medical Center.

I wasn't a Bengal fan, having Detroit Lion DNA in my blood. However, with the game being played in the stadium near where I grew up I was compelled to attend, whatever it took.

On Jan. 10, 1982, two weeks prior to the Super Bowl, as soon as The Bengals were confirmed as the AFC team, speculation and demand for Super Bowl Tickets began to skyrocket in the greater Cincinnati market. There were reports of Bengal fans being willing to pay $400-$500 per ticket. The Bengals were besieged by their fans, especially season ticket holders, who all wanted tickets.

The team had requests for more than 100,000 tickets. But there were only 16,000 to distribute and fans would not know if they would receive tickets from the Bengals until Jan. 14.

A regular reader of USA Today, I noticed an advertisement placed on Jan.11 by a ticket broker in New York, advertising tickets for $200 each.

Ah, this was my chance to attend the game. I would purchase four tickets at $200 each and resell them at $400 each, providing enough profit for me to purchase another ticket at $200. This would be my opportunity to meet my dream of attending the game at the Pontiac Silverdome.

On Jan. 11, I called the broker and used my credit card to pay for the four tickets. They were to be delivered to me by Wednesday, Jan. 13.

I placed a classified ad in the Dayton Daily News for January 12 that simply said "Super Bowl tickets for sale - $400 each.” I listed my home phone number.

When I walked in the door of my home after work on Jan. 12, my phone was ringing. I answered it and it was an excited Bengal fan. "Do you really have tickets?" "I will in a couple of days," I said. He gave me his name and number and I said I would call him as soon as the tickets arrived.

As soon as I set the receiver down the phone rang again. The conversation was repeated. I set the phone down and immediately it rang again. I took a third name and phone number.

After an hour, I had a page full of names and phone numbers, all eager to pay $400 each for four tickets to the Super Bowl.

I did not have an answering machine, so after an hour, I took the phone off the hook.

When I arrived home from work on Wednesday, Jan.13, I expected to find my special delivery package with the tickets. However, nothing was there.

I called the agency, and they said the package would be delivered by noon on Thursday, Jan. 14.

I stayed home Thursday, and when no package had arrived by 1 p.m., I decided to call the Better Business Bureau in New York. "We have a file over 6 inches thick of complaints on this company. You should have called us before you ordered."


I called the ticket agency and said "I would like to order up to 10 more tickets, but I have to sell these four tickets first and I haven't yet received them,” I said. "You'll have them by noon tomorrow” was the response.

The next day they were delivered to my house by 11 am.

So on Friday, Jan. 15 about 12 noon, I called the first name on my list and reached a lady by the name of Betty. “Betty, I have the four tickets now, do you still want them?" How much are they?" she asked with an honest tone of voice.

"They are ‘four’ each and 16 for the four - cash only,” I stated matter of factly.

"That sounds great, when can we meet? she asked.

"How about 3 p.m. on the steps in front of the main post office? " I suggested.

"That's great, I'll be wearing a red winter coat,” she said. "Great, I'll see you there,” I replied.

It was a bitterly cold and snowy day, but my enthusiasm, along with my scarf, hat, and gloves had kept me warm.

At 3 p.m. sharp, I arrived at the post office and Betty in her red coat was there.

"I have the tickets in this envelope,” which I opened and showed her.

"Do you have the money?" I asked.

"Yes, here it is" she said and handed me a white envelope.

I opened it and counted the cash. One ten-dollar bill, one five-dollar bill and one-dollar bill for a total of $16.

"Is this a joke,” I asked incredulously?


I quickly learned that this was not a joke. She honestly had believed me when I said 4 each for a total of 16. "My husband told me I was crazy,” she said.

There were tears in her eyes and I could tell that she had honestly believed the total price to be $16.

I quickly returned home and went to my list of names.

The 16,000 Bengals tickets had reached the market place and the most I could get for my four tickets was $225 each.

This time I made sure there was no misunderstanding about the exact price.

I learned a valuable lesson: "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."

Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a health care consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at

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